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Moving Images and the Politics of Pity: A Multilevel Approach to the Interpretation of Images and Emotions

Part of the Palgrave Studies in International Relations book series (PSIR)

Abstract

Lately, but without surprise, both images and emotions have gained great attention in political science and international relations theory (IR), although studying images and emotions remains a challenge. In this chapter, I address two questions in relation to this challenge. First, I reflect on the relation between images, emotions, and politics, with the aim of ‘theorizing the process through which individual emotions become collective and political’ (Bleiker & Hutchison, Theorizing Emotions in World Politics. International Theory, 6, 491–514, 2014). Focusing on visual representations of emotions, I argue that images depicting moments of distress and misery can be both, powerful in the sense that they raise awareness and provoke emotional responses, and powerless in the sense that they de-politicize the suffering of others. Second, I sketch out a multilevel methodology that intends to capture and study emotions at different sites, including the image itself, its production, circulation, media(tiza)tion, audiencing, and intertextuality.

Keywords

  • Bleiklie
  • Alan Kurdi
  • Photographphotograph
  • refugeesRefugees
  • spectatorSpectator

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Picture 9.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    I am absolutely aware that this depiction of a history is highly selective and Eurocentric. Visual histories and cultures indeed differ.

  2. 2.

    An immediate experience of someone’s emotions and a visual documentation of a bo dily sensation counts as a performance or representation of emotions. Due to a restricted access to relevant data, this dimension will not be discussed in this chapter.

  3. 3.

    For iconographic approaches to the relation between emotions and visuals, see Flam & Doerr (2015) and Falk (2015).

  4. 4.

    Note that Rose also refers to modes but in a different way (technological modality, compositional modality, social modality).

  5. 5.

    For example, shock and anger but also apathy and indifference.

  6. 6.

    Some artistic responses use the angel motif showing Alan Kurdi with wings or with the presence of an angel.

  7. 7.

    In retro, readers can find tweets under the Turkish hashtag #kiyiyavuraninsanlik and the English translation #HumanityWashedAshore.

  8. 8.

    For a collection of headlines, see Laurent (2015).

  9. 9.

    A selection of artistic responses is presented here: http://www.boredpanda.com/syrian-boy-drowned-mediterranean-tragedy-artists-respond-aylan-kurdi/.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the editors, Maéva Clément and Eric Sangar, as well as Axel Heck, Hanna Pfeifer, and Katarina Ristic for helpful comments. All remaining errors and fallacies are my own.

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Schlag, G. (2018). Moving Images and the Politics of Pity: A Multilevel Approach to the Interpretation of Images and Emotions. In: Clément, M., Sangar, E. (eds) Researching Emotions in International Relations. Palgrave Studies in International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65575-8_9

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